In terms of user scalability, how many total users is the current bitcoin system best suited for? Example: The current bitcoin mining limit is set at 21 million, therefore the bitcoin ceiling does not allow for 7 billion+ users (Earth's growing population). So, what is the maximum amount of users bitcoin is ideally suited for?

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    cdecker's answer bellow addresses why the 21 million limit isn't a limit. The real question of scalability isn't the number of people that can use it but the transaction rate that bitcoin can support. Questions such as bitcoin.stackexchange.com/questions/3685/… try to address this. – dchapes Sep 21 '13 at 16:02

This is a highly speculative question. From a technical point of view there will eventually be 21 million (21e6) bitcoins in circulation, yes. But we are already witnessing a shift to using the millibitcoin (mBTC) when denominating prices.

This use of ever smaller fractions may go on until we reach the satoshi (1e-8 bitcoins). We would effectively have 21e14 satoshis in circulation. Even this limit could be shifted if there is consensus among the users of Bitcoin that such a change is indeed needed, but let's assume that it is indeed a hard limit. So we would have 21e14 units of accounting for a world population of 7e9. That would mean that on average each human would own 3e5, or 300'000 satoshis. The purchasing power of those satoshis depends on the evolution of the market price, but there certainly is no technical limit to the widespread adoption of Bitcoin.

  • Great answer. My first thought though, is that not being able to spend anything less than 1/30,000th of my wealth on something actually seems kind of large. That's a bridge we can cross when we get to it though. – mardlin Sep 20 '13 at 20:28
  • Minor note: 3×10^5 = 300,000 not 30,000. I'd edit the answer but StackExchange refuses to accept such a small edit from me. – dchapes Sep 21 '13 at 16:09
  • Note that even the 300.000 satoshis could be further splitted. – Flow Oct 25 '13 at 0:14

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